Apr 27, 2007

Webcasters find friends in Congress

U.S. Rep Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) and Donald Manzullo (R-Ill.) introduced a bill that aims to throw out a controversial new royalty structure for music streams, passed in March by a panel of three copyright judges, that many webcasters say will put them out of business if it goes into effect.
Webcasters support the lawmakers' measure, which would set rates at 7.5 percent of streaming-based revenue--or roughly the same level as those for satellite radio--instead of basing the rate on the annually escalating, per-play standard that the record labels wanted and the judges decreed. Internet radio station operators have been bombarding Congress with pleas to intervene, an effort that became more urgent earlier this month after the copyright panel rejected all requests to reconsider its decision. In an arcane but crucial legal point, the bill would also change the standard by which future royalty rates are set from the nebulous "willing buyer/willing seller" concept to one that webcasters say more fairly balances the needs of copyright owners, users and the public good. For pubcasters, the new bill would set the new rates at 1.5 times what they paid in 2004, which was last official year of the system's previous streaming rate deal with the labels. CPB has historically covered pubradio's streaming fees. It would also place pubcasters' Web royalty determination within Section 118 of the Copyright Act, where other noncommercial royalties such as ASCAP and BMI are covered. This would establish pubradio streaming royalties as being fundamentally different from those for commercial broadcasters. Under the controversial new structure, pubradio stations whose total monthly user-hours exceed pubradio’s average would be subject to commercial rates. As a result, roughly 20 percent of pubradio stations could face significant new streaming fees, the copyright judges estimated. "This bill will provide a long-term solution that is fair for all sides," said Andi Sporkin, NPR spokeswoman. Sound Exchange, an organization created by record labels to collect digital distribution fees, opposes the proposed measure. Webcasters are coming to Washington May 1 to try to convince lawmakers to pass the bill, and soon. The new webcasting fees go into effect May 15.

PBS ombud: Airing Perle film an "abdication of journalistic principle"

PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler thought several of the America at a Crossroads films were excellent and described one in particular, Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience, as "one of the most gripping hours I've spent in front of the tube in quite a while." But he also agreed with critics and viewers who blasted PBS for giving an hour to neocon adviser Richard Perle during the series. The decision to re-present the initial case for a war "that has, at the very least, gone badly" instead of examining what went wrong and where the powers that be should go from here represents a "stunning avoidance of the real crossroad that we are at," Getler wrote. He also criticized the series' lack of substantive discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

MSNBC anchor coming to NPR morning show

Alison Stewart, host of MSNBC's midday news show The Most, will co-host of an "upcoming 24-hour multimedia news service and morning drive show for Adults 25-44," NPR announced today. The new show is working-titled the Bryant Park Project, now in a "Rough Cuts" blogging phase. Her new colleagues have posted a musical video tribute to Stewart. Before joining MSNBC in 2003, she anchored for ABC News, reported for CBS Sunday Morning and other shows and won a Peabody for MTV News election coverage. 'Bistro says Stewart was music director of Brown University's commercial college station, WBRU, when she was a student.

Apr 25, 2007

Antoniotti resigns at Detroit station

Detroit Public Television said yesterday that Steve Antoniotti, its president since 1995, "tendered his resignation because of an acknowledged failure to comply with station requirements, unrelated to financial matters." Chief Operating Officer Dan Alpert will serve as interim g.m. The board chairman declined to discuss what those requirements were, the Detroit Free Press reported today.

Apr 24, 2007

Producers of disputed Crossroads film to screen it for journalists, lawmakers

The producers behind Islam vs. Islamists--the America at a Crossroads doc that PBS says it will not air in its current imbalanced state--will show the film to journalists and lawmakers at a series of invitation-only screenings in Washington, according to the Washington Times.

Apr 23, 2007

On-air changes follow shift of control at KKJZ, Long Beach

Jazz announcers Chuck Cecil and Helen Borgers stayed on the air at KKJZ in Long Beach, Calif., when Mt. Wilson Broadcasters took over operation of the station April 21, the Orange County Register reported. But others, including Joni Caryl and Scott Willis, lost their gigs. On the same day, listeners of KUOR-FM in Redlands, east of Los Angeles, lost jazz programming entirely when its licensee, the University of Redlands, took the occasion to drop its KKJZ simulcast and picked up Southern California Public Radio’s all-news service, repeated from KPCC in Pasadena, the Redlands Daily Facts said. SCPR plans to launch a news bureau at the Redlands site. Cal State Long Beach, the licensee of the Long Beach station, sought proposals for operation of KKJZ last year and gave the job to Mt. Wilson in October.

Something about it broke me

Like many newspaper commentators, Arizona Republic's Robert Robb found inspiration for a column in what he heard on NPR, or saw on its website, in this case: The painful-to-read profiles of the Virginia Tech victims. He wrote: "So many lives of promise. I was holding it together until I came to Henry Lee, a computer engineering freshman at Virginia Tech. Lee moved to the United States from China as a child and entered elementary school here not speaking English. He nevertheless became his high school salutatorian. He was, however, reluctant to speak at his graduation ceremony, but was talked into it. There was something about Lee's story that broke me. Or perhaps it was the concatenation of his and all the other stories..."

Apr 20, 2007

CPB Board member Ernest Wilson now a dean

Ernest James Wilson III, a CPB Board member, was named dean of the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication on Thursday, the USC Daily Trojan reported. He is a visiting professor of public diplomacy at Annenberg and a faculty member at the University of Maryland. He succeeds Geoffrey Cowan, who was also a Democratic member of the CPB Board.

And the Webby Award nominees include

Register and vote by April 27 for the annual Webby People's Voice Awards. Nominees connected with public TV and radio include:

PBS Kids Sprout cable channel's Sprout Diner in Family/Parenting; in News and in Radio;

the NPR Podcast Directory in Podcasts;

Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly in Religion;

NPR's This I Believe in Religion;

Nova scienceNow in Science;

P.O.V. in Television; and

Curious George in Youth.

The public chooses the People's Voice Awards, while the 500-plus members of the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences choose the Webby Award winners in a parallel competition. Both sets will be announced in June.

Apr 18, 2007

Post account of Burns' meeting with Latino activists refuted

Ken Burns and PBS executives met yesterday with leaders of the "Defend the Honor" campaign to discuss the filmmakers' plans to collaborate with Hector Galan in producing new material for The War. Spokespeople for Burns and PBS are refuting the Washington Post's account of the meeting. The Post reported that Burns agreed to re-edit his series to incorporate the new segments. "Ken is not opening his film," Burns' spokesman Joseph DePlasco told Current. "Ken’s film is done." During the meeting, Burns emphasized that the new material "needs to be added in a way that's seen as part of the broadcast and doesn’t seem like an orphan or an appendage," DePlasco said. "How that gets done is something that needs to be worked out."

Apr 17, 2007

Radio manager Ray Dilley dies

Ray Dilley, 67, manager of the Nebraska Radio Network, founding manager of Vermont Public Radio and developer of NPR Worldwide, died over the weekend of April 13-15.

IMA backs Google's web performance metrics

Integrated Media Association has proposed that public radio's web operations use Google Analytics as their standard system for measuring website usage. To establish the metrics for a pilot group of 50 stations by July 1, the IMA Board decided to invest up to $25,000 of the surplus from its February conference. It's asking the CPB Radio Program Fund to put in $500,000.

Galan to collaborate with Burns on "The War"

Hector Galan, an Austin-based filmmaker and TV producer, will collaborate with Ken Burns in producing segments on Native and Hispanic American veterans' World War II experiences, according to AP.

Critic sees capitulation in PBS decision

By bowing to pressure from Latino activists seeking changes to The War, PBS and filmmaker Ken Burns set a "lousy precedent," writes Charlie McCullom, TV writer for the San Jose Mercury News.

Copyright judges reject webcaster appeals

The Copyright Royalty Board yesterday rejected all requests from webcasters that it reconsider the new fee structure for Internet radio it announced March 2. Webcasters have said the new rate structure, which raises the royalty rates and assesses fees on a per play basis, will cripple Internet radio. In addition, pubcasters that stream lots of hours would see their own rates rise dramatically. The new fee system goes into effect May 15; lawyers representing webcasters say the next step is likely an appeal to D.C.'s U.S. Court of Appeals. Coincidentally, a coalition of artists and webcasters yesterday announced "a national campaign to save Internet radio." See also

Apr 16, 2007

NPR expects to move HQ in 2011

NPR has outgrown its office space in Washington, D.C., and plans to move to larger quarters in 2011, the Washington Post reported today (second item in roundup). The network now occupies 210,000 square feet in two buildings near the city's new convention center. On its last move, 13 years ago, NPR left a building where it had 88,000 square feet.

Apr 13, 2007

Unedited version of Crossroads soldier stories available

WETA, which oversaw production of the America at a Crossroads series, will make an uncensored version of one of the films, Operation Homecoming, available to stations that request it but hasn't publicized the offering, reports the Los Angeles Times. PBS will only offer a sanitized version of the film depicting soldiers' war stories, some of which include profanity. "Our policy, in the name of trying to eliminate errors so a station doesn't unwittingly punch up the wrong version, is to keep it relatively clean and straightforward," said John Wilson, PBS programming chief. The film is scheduled for 10 p.m. Monday, which falls within the FCC's "safe harbor" for edgy content, but will air an hour earlier in the central time zone.

HearVox News: Community Broadcasters Agenda: revised

Check out this spoof revised agenda for this week's Community Broadcasters Conference: "0815-1000: Case Studies in New Facilities and how building would have been easier with webcasting and everyone at RIAA dead from painful diseases."

The Making of a Personality, Chapter XIII

Tucker Carlson, briefly host of a PBS talk show between his gigs on CNN and MSNBC, will host a game show pilot for CBS, Who Do You Trust?, TV Week reported. With his game tryout on Dancing with the Stars, Carlson continued his climb to bow-tied personality status -- someday potentially eclipsing altogether the memory of George Will, Pee Wee Herman, Bill Nye and even Orville Redenbacher.

Apr 12, 2007

PlaybillArts: News: WNYC Launches Capital Campaign With Largest-Ever Gift to Public Radio Station

New York's WNYC-AM/FM has received a $6 million contribution from the Jerome L. Greene Foundation, the largest gift ever given to a public radio station, reports PlaybillArts. The gift goes to the station's newly announced capital campaign, which will support its programming and a move to new offices and studios this fall.

Apr 11, 2007

FCC sets date for NCE filing window

The FCC announced last week that it will open a filing window for noncommercial educational FM stations Oct. 12 (PDF). The window will be open for a week, and applicants must file electronically. The commission has not accepted applications for new noncommercial stations since April 2000.

WBEZ's sister station, ":Vocalo"

WBEZ/Chicago Public Radio's hitherto Secret Radio Project, intended to attract a distinct new audience, has gone public with the name of its new radio-Web service, (That colon is part of an emoticon. The name combines "vocal" with "zocalo, a Spanish word for public square.") Sign in and read more. In May the licensee plans to launch a newly developed public-affairs/talk format to air on WBEW, its outlet in northwest Indiana that now barely reaches into the South Side of the city but will get a stronger signal, the Chicago Reader reports. The g.m. is Wendy Turner, former membership director at WBEZ. Station spokesman Daniel Ash tells the Reader the station won't be "a junior 91.5" and it won't be labeled "public radio."

Want to count some translators?

To prepare for the digital broadcasting transition, CPB is looking for someone to audit and analyze the status of all translators that are a) owned and operated by pubcasters, or b) owned by other public or private entities but carry some pubcasting content. RFP available here, May 14 is the application deadline.

Ifill on Imus

NewsHour correspondent and Washington Week moderator Gwen Ifill recounts her own brush with embattled radio host Don Imus' race-baiting shtick in this New York Times editorial. In 1993, Imus reportedly said in reference to Ifill, the Times' White House reporter at the time, that it was wonderful that the newspaper "lets the cleaning lady cover the White House." Imus' "sincerity seems forced and suspect because he’s done some version of this several times before," Ifill writes. "I know, because he apparently did it to me."

Fans, critics speak up about Burns' series

Associated Press reports on the controversy over The War, the Ken Burns series slated to air in September, and PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler shares more viewer feedback on Latino activists' campaign for revisions to the documentary.

Landscape Artist: Television: The New Yorker

A New Yorker writer reviews This American Life's TV debut and along the way shares some criticisms of its radio incarnation: "Sometimes, after reading certain magazines or watching certain TV shows, people speak of feeling as though they needed to take a shower; after listening to "This American Life," sometimes I feel I need to roll around in the dirt."

DCist: Considering NPR

DCist, a blog about the nation's capital, interviews All Songs Considered producer Robin Hilton about the show's series of live webcasts from local concert venues. "In general we look for bands that have something to say; bands that are breaking new ground or simply doing something interesting, however you define that," Hilton says. (Via PRPD News.)

PRPD News for Programmers: Stations named for CPB Community Engagement Initiative

CPB and the Harwood Institute have selected 12 public radio and TV stations to take part in a Community Engagement Initiative that will develop "new ways to make public television and radio stations more significant and deeply involved local organizations."

WQED originates teleconferences to steakhouse chain

Pittsburgh's WQED Multimedia has begun generating revenue by originating high-def satellite teleconferences and musical performances beamed to specially equipped suites in 67 Morton's Steakhouses around the country, to be demonstrated in a live news conference this afternoon. Velocity Broadcasting -- a division of Elias/Savion Inc., Morton's ad agency -- is offering the "precision marketing" service to businesses as well as closed-circuit entertainment events in the Higher Definition Private Performance Series, which launched in October with a concert by trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, also originated by WQED.

Apr 9, 2007

Discovery cuts 200 jobs

Discovery today cut approximately 200 staffers, or roughly 3 percent of its workforce, Broadcasting & Cable reports. Network management let go roughly 20 percent of the aggregate staffs of the Discovery Channel; Animal Planet; the Education group; and some Corporate Service groups.

Apr 5, 2007

Discovery to launch 'green' channel

Discovery plans to launch an earth-focused channel and turn its Silver Spring, Md., headquarters "green" as part of a $50 million project it's calling PlanetGreen, Broadcasting & Cable reports. The cable network will relaunch its current Home channel as the as-yet-unnamed eco-friendly channel next year. Programs will focus on eco-design, organic food and "green" architecture, among other topics.

Study finds that educational software doesn't boost learning

A study released yesterday by the U.S. Department of Education found that educational software used in schools has no impact on student performance. "No technology adds value by itself," said John Deasy, superintendent of schools in Prince George's County, Md., in a Washington Post report on the study. "Just employing software is not likely to lift test scores for students."

Apr 4, 2007

Six Peabodies awarded to pubcasters

An NPR report on post-traumatic stress disorder among Iraq War veterans and a PBS American Masters documentary on Andy Warhol are two of six pubcasting entries to receive 2006 Peabody Awards.

Apr 3, 2007

Bill Siemering - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jim Russell has posted a Wikipedia entry on Bill Siemering and invites others to contribute. It begins, "Bill Siemering is a certified genius."

Apr 2, 2007

Crossroads ready for its closeup

It's been a bumpy ride -- critics hammered the inital idea, directors complained of undue interference from above, advisers quit -- but the post-9/11 series America at a Crossroads is finally set for broadcast, says the New York Times. (See Current's stories on its development, criticism, controversy, emergence and more recent flaps.)